What is the best placement for an urn to be buried at an older family cemetery?

10 years, 6 months ago

My aunt wanted her cremains buried next to her husband at the old family cemetery. The cemetery is mowed, but I am not sure who to ask about the gravesite. Would you recommend burying her urn on top of the gravesite of her husband? I am assuming going down the recommended six inches would not disturb his resting place, but I was concerned about digging next to the grave due to not knowing the area and being respectful of other possible graves. Her urn weighs 20 pounds, would that sink down and disturb my uncle’s resting place? My uncle passed some 55 years ago and from what I have read, it is common to bury urns on top of gravesites. Thanks

Jennifer Lane
10 years, 6 months ago

Hi Steve-

The best and most typical spot for burial of an urn on a gravesite would be at the head or foot of the grave. You would bury the urn directly above the burial vault or casket of your uncle if there was no burial vault.

(Most cemeteries require that a casket be sealed in a burial vault to help stabilize the ground, but since your uncle is in a family cemetery, I’m not sure if a burial vault was used.)

If you do not dig down further than you need to go (using the recommended 6 inches) then the urn should not sink down too much. Since your uncle’s gravesite is very old, I would not expect that you would be disturbing his grave.

My recommendation would be to bury the urn at the head end of the grave, as close to the monument or grave marker as you can get.

I hope this helps – just reply if you have any further questions and I’ll do my best to advise you.

10 years, 6 months ago

We ended up completing the burial last week. The urn was buried near the tombstone (about 20 inches away, so it would be over the vault/coffin). We ended up going to a depth of 16 to 17 inches. Being careful as we got deeper. This left about 9 to 10 inches of earth on top of the urn. (a little more then you recommended, but some family members had issue with six inches of soil) It was very difficult to do this ourselves, but we wanted to comply with my aunt’s wishes. I printed your instructions and we followed them the best we could. Do you feel this was completed within your recommendations? Also, I was very concerned about my uncle’s vault/coffin, but my cousin was more concerned with my aunt’s wishes. So we wanted to attempt to honor both. Is it more common for families to complete urn burials privately without the assistance of a funeral home? Typically, how deep are graves dug? Thank you so much for your guidance…it has been extremely helpful and reduced a lot of our stress during this time.

Jennifer Lane
10 years, 6 months ago

Hi Steve,

I think you did just fine with the burial of your Aunt’s urn. Since this was a family cemetery and it was unknown how deep your Uncle’s vault/coffin was – you were wise to be careful with your digging. It sounds like the extra depth did not disturb your Uncle’s grave, so you did very well.

In a public or privately owned cemetery, typically the cemetery staff will do the burial of the urn. Depending on the cemetery and it’s geographical location, the depth of the burial may vary due to the soil composition in that area. Traditional cemeteries are more likely to leave 12-18 inches of soil on top of an urn when it is not buried on top of a grave. When burying an urn on top of a grave, I’d say they leave 10 -12 inches on top as long as the depth of the burials in that particular cemetery allow for that.

Funeral homes rarely get involved in this unless the family requests their assistance and then the funeral director would act as a liaison to help arrange the burial. Traditional cemeteries prefer to work with the family directly for burial arrangements. In a family cemetery such as the one your Aunt and Uncle are now buried in, burial of cremated remains is generally left to the family.

I know this was difficult, but you also did very well in navigating the feedback from other family members. I believe you can rest assured that you have honored your Aunt’s wishes to the satisfaction of your family and others who cared about how this was done.

Thank you for letting us know how everything turned out – I am glad we were able to be helpful to you and alleviate a little stress.

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